“There are fines involved and we don’t want to violate any restrictions,” he added.
Processing CITES documentation for shipments involves fees, which Mr. Bowman-Scargill of Fears Watches said can substantially add to the price of a watch strap, making it prohibitively expensive. But, “it’s not just the actual cost of the documentation,” he said. “It’s also the cost of a member of my team having to do all the process — chasing it up, applying for it. It can be hours.”
Still, Mr. Bowman-Scargill said he understands the importance of CITES. “It’s what stops people just going out and killing wild animals and selling their skins without documentation,” he said. “I’m not at all someone who is anti-CITES, but it’s a very, very difficult, laborious process.”
Some strap makers see CITES documentation as a normal part of doing business. “I don’t see it as something negative or the worst part of the job,” said Aaron Pimentel, founder of the Montreal-based company Aaron Bespoke, which makes straps and items like belts and wallets. “I just see it as part of the deal and I’m happy to do it.”
At his company, CITES-related paperwork takes about six hours per shipment, he said, but it helps that his straps are often sent in bulk (with some 30 to 60 straps per shipment), to countries such as the United States, which generates about 40 percent of the business’s sales.
Quite a few luxury brands have discontinued selling exotics, perhaps more with consumer perception than CITES regulations in mind. Chanel and Burberry no longer sell products made of reptile skins, for example, and some department stores, like Nordstrom and Selfridges, have stopped carrying products made with reptile skins.
“The new millennial customer, is very attuned to the environment, to ethical treatment,” said Robert Burke, the founder of a namesake retail, fashion and hospitality consultancy in New York City. “They’re hypersensitive to it.”